The first question most patients as-is: Do bioidentical hormones cause cancer? The answer is no. But many doctors and patients simply do not understand the difference between bioidentical and synthetic hormones. It is time they do.
It is now known that synthetic estrogens like Premarin and progestins like Provera, increase the risk of breast cancer. Multiple studies have shown that natural estrogens and natural progesterone are protective against breast cancer as well as some other types of cancer. But mention that to traditional physicians and they will undoubtedly say that’s not true. Tell them to read the literature and take their heads out of the sand!
Most bioidentical estrogens contain estriol which is much safer than synthetic estrogen. Studies have shown that women with high estriol levels have a lower incidence of breast cancer. Not only that, but one study showed that when giving estriol to postmenopausal women with a history of breast cancer, some women demonstrated a halting of cancer. In addition, many studies have shown that giving women estriol had a protective effect on breast cancer while synthetic estrogens were shown to increase breast cancer risk.
The same can be said of natural, bio-identical progesterone; it inhibits the growth of breast cancer cells. Synthetic progesterone has time after time been shown to increase the growth of breast cancer cells.
Now would be a good time to discuss the WHI or Women’s Health Initiative. The WHI studied synthetic Premarin and Provera. It concluded that the two hormones increased the risk of heart attack and stroke. As a result, millions of women went off hormone replacement therapy, suffered, and continued to suffer tremendously. Many of these women were not offered bioidentical hormones.
Provera has been shown to inhibit the heart-protective benefits of estrogen and therefore increase the risk of heart disease. On the other hand, natural progesterone has also been shown to increase HDL or good cholesterol.
As mentioned in Part I of this series, synthetic hormones are significantly more potent than natural hormones. This goes to show that stronger is NOT necessarily better.
The take-home message here? For women who want to try hormone replacement therapy – bioidentical is the way to go. Bear in mind that topical hormone replacement therapy is NOT the same as bioidentical. Many pharmaceutical companies have jumped on the bandwagon and are trying to cash in on bio-identical hormones. They are hoping that patients and doctors won’t know the difference. But these prescription creams are not tailored to the individual and true bioidenticals do just that. So keep informed, read and question your physician about bioidentical and if he or she does not know about them, find one who does.
Dr. Dean Mitchell
Mitchell Medical Group, NYC & Long Island